Janesville officials are looking for new ways to recoup costs after the city council agreed to pay $125,000 to the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin for animal control over the next three years.
A proposed ordinance creating a lost-pet reclamation fee could be the solution.
The city council Monday again will consider an ordinance requiring an animal owner to pay the city $20 before retrieving a lost pet from the humane society. Councilmembers postponed a vote at their Nov. 27 meeting.
At its Oct. 25 budget study session, the council voted 5-2 to put $5,000 in animal reclamation fee revenue into the 2018 budget, according to a memo to the council.
City Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said the humane society indicated 250 to 300 lost pets are reclaimed each year in Janesville. By charging $20 per reclaimed animal, the city could make an additional $5,000 to $6,000 a year to help offset the $125,000 cost for animal control services, he said.
Humane society Executive Director Brett Frazier said not that many pets are reclaimed each year. Of the 992 stray Janesville animals turned in to the humane society last year, 110 were reclaimed, he said.
If 110 Janesville pets are reclaimed this year, the city would gain only $2,200 in revenue under the proposed ordinance, which takes effect Feb. 1 if approved.
Frazier said he isn’t sure where Godek got his reclaimed-pet statistic. Godek said he got it from Frazier at the budget study session.
The extra fee would raise the total cost of reclaiming a lost pet to $55. Frazier said that could have an adverse effect on residents, most of whom are middle-class, blue-collar families.
“An unexpected bill for $100 or $50, you notice it,” Frazier said. “It’s obviously not going to do anything good.”
Instead of charging residents the extra fee, Frazier has a different idea.
By working with the city, the humane society could issue pet licenses to people reclaiming lost pets. The humane society already licenses adopted pets, Frazier said.
Pet licenses cost $15 for spayed or neutered animals and $25 for those that haven’t been sterilized. A license requires proof a pet has been vaccinated for rabies.
Unlike reclamation fees, pet licenses have to be renewed each year. If the city allowed the humane society to license reclaimed pets, the city could create a potential annual revenue source, Frazier said.
From the city’s perspective, it’s not that easy, Godek said, although city officials aren’t opposed to the idea.
Godek posed these questions: If a resident can’t prove a pet has been vaccinated when trying to reclaim it, what does the humane society do? If a resident refuses to pay for a license, does the humane society decline to return the lost pet?
“Those are operational questions we would have to work through,” he said. “It could put them in a very difficult bind.”
Frazier said the humane society could vaccinate unlicensed reclaimed pets. The humane society would need a shared, up-to-date document from the city to know if a pet is already licensed so a resident isn’t charged again, he said.
“That’s something other municipalities are doing,” he said. “There are all sorts of options to do the licensing.”